Postdate: 18/ 02/ 2008
Re: Racism, land and sugar issues
I refer to the letter by Manoa Loganimoce in DP 16/02/08.
I wish to inform Loganimoce that the CCF did not at any time make the statement reported in the Daily Post (15/02/08) as “CCF accuses landowners of racism”.
We informed the Daily Post that we did not make this statement. The Daily Post published a correction in DP 16/02/08 (page 4).
The CCF has not made any statement on the issue of de-reservation of native land. The 1997 Constitution of Fiji guarantees that native land in Fiji is inalienable. Native land legislation is also an entrenched legislation, which means that it is very difficult to make any changes to it. The requirement of a two-thirds majority approval in Parliament is also a further measure of safeguarding native land, as guaranteed in the Constitution.
It is sad that politicians in Fiji continue to racialise the land issue to create tensions between the two major ethnic groups in Fiji.
We wish to reassure Mr Loganimoce that CCF is very concerned about issues affecting indigenous Fijians.
In fact, CCF has had majority participation by Indigenous Fijian people at our education workshops on the Constitution, human rights, good governance, national budgets and also land issues.
CCF has conducted a number of workshops with landowners and tenants and the recommendations received at these workshops forms the basis of our statements.
We believe that the problems of the sugar industry is actually a major concern because it will affect Indigenous Fijians, especially those living in the Western sugar towns of Lautoka, Ba and Rakiraki.
It is widely acknowledged that sugar cane may not be a viable crop for Fiji because the small scale of production is not producing sufficient returns for any of the stakeholders.
However, Fijians need to be concerned because if the sugar industry collapses, Fiji will face bigger problems. We call on chiefs and landowners to think about what will happen if the sugar industry collapses.
Landowners need to find strategies to cope now, because there will be an economic downturn in the West if the sugar industry declines.
Landowners and chiefs need to take this issue seriously and explore if there are any alternative crops that can replace sugar.
Landowners need to find alternative crops and also encourage indigenous Fijians to farm these alternative crops. They need to provide incentives to encourage people to keep investing in the towns in the West.
The recent census has revealed that Fijians have been leaving the rural areas and settling more in the urban centres. If the sugar towns in the West collapse, Fijians could well face an even bigger problem due to a higher possibility of rural-urban migration, because of a lack of development in their provinces.
Rev Akuila Yabaki